The 4-year College Degree Taking Longer for College Students

Last updated on November 27, 2017

The traditional 4-year college degree is almost a thing of the past. Today, a bachelor’s degree can take anywhere from 4 to 6 years or more to complete. Some factors that stretch this time period are finances, bad or little advice, impacted classes and study abroad programs.

As college costs continue to rise, students are taking on more responsibility to finance their education. Either working full or part-time causing them to take a lower number of units per semester or choosing to take a semester off to save money thereby pushing graduation date further.

For some, deciding on a major or concentration isn’t predetermined and consequently taking different courses to determine their interests can add additional semesters. Clearly understanding how to maneuver through the complex college degree requirements and having a clear plan will help get you through college quicker. That’s not the case for some students at larger colleges and universities where access to an advisor isn’t as easy. Students negotiate obstacles and hurdles on their own before finally getting to the right road to complete their degree.

Not only do students have do deal with rising college costs, but they’re also facing rising enrollment numbers that have impacted classes and made it difficult for students to get into general education or required classes. New students find that popular classes get filled almost immediately and they must wait until the following semester to register. It becomes a domino effect if the class happens to be a prerequisite course, prolonging their time to complete their majors.

It is not all about academics; It’s a life experience and for some, taking a semester to study abroad is worth the extra semester or year to finish their college degree. Some students covet the double, or triple major or minor and take the extra time to finish with that distinction. For others, taking a semester off is necessary for financial or personal reasons. The rising number of students taking one or more semesters off has increased the time it takes to complete their 4-year college degrees.

College isn’t just about getting a degree, for most it is a right of passage into adulthood and the responsibilities that go along with it. The traditional 4 year adventure in college has largely gone away with the more complex lives in which students live. In order to get the most out of your college experience from both an academic and social aspect, you must experience as much as you can while keeping the goal in mind. We should realize that to graduate with a degree that would make Mom and Dad proud, it’s going to take a majority of students today 5 or 6 years to complete it.


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